No Windows? How do they work?
Chromebooks do have an operating system, it’s just based around Google’s Chrome web browser. This makes it lighter than something like Windows, so it needs lower-powered, cheaper hardware and uses less battery power.
What happens if you go offline?
Not much. You can’t surf the web or back up to the cloud, but with the web apps you need installed on the internal storage, you can carry on as before in the face of spotty wifi. Once you reconnect, your work is synced back to Google Drive so you don’t lose it.
What about security?
ChromeOS is updated approximately every four weeks to fix security problems, and as it can’t run desktop Windows apps or Office macros, you’re less likely to be infected by something nasty that arrives as an email attachment. It’s very important to keep your Google Account password strong and secure, however, as this becomes the key to using both your laptop and the Google Drive backup.
Can I plug in USB drives or my camera?
Most of the time, yes. The internal storage of a Chromebook is often quite small – the idea is to offload your files to Google Drive – so using one might not be ideal if you’re frequently copying large numbers of images off a camera memory card, but they have USB ports and frequently Micro SD card slots, so you can expand your local storage to cope.
What about creative tasks?
Don’t expect to be editing 4K movies, 3D rendering, or running a raw image workflow for a photography studio from a Chromebook, but there are plenty of apps for drawing, photo editing, and other less demanding tasks. Gaming isn’t necessarily off limits either, as there are plenty of Android games a Chromebook can run, and the new game streaming services coming online will suit one perfectly.
Would my office IT department like this?
Some more business-focused Chromebooks come with Chrome Enterprise, which is the same as normal Chrome but with the extra group policies and large-scale deployment capabilities that IT departments like.
The verdict: Chromebooks
Chromebooks took over where netbooks – a short-lived class of really small, low-powered laptops meant for web-browsing and little more – left off. While they can be used without an internet connection, they thrive with one, and the ability to access every file and application you need is a powerful one.
Google just has the edge over Acer in this roundup. The pixelbook go is everything a Chromebook should be, chunky and fun to use, easy to throw in a bag and take with you, and capable enough to do a full day’s work. Its lack of ports may mark it down in some eyes, but it’s nothing an adapter won’t fix.
Acer is still firing very strongly though, with two models that have all the strengths Chromebooks can exhibit. The 317’s screen makes it a titan for media consumption and working with multiple documents, while the 713’s ability to twist its screen back and turn into a pseudo-tablet will mean a lot in the right hands.
The others are, of course, fine. But anyone looking to buy a Chromebook as their only computer besides perhaps a smartphone should put the Google pixelbook go at the top of their list. It hits a spot of price and features that’s particularly sweet.
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